Why is creativity so important? Why are larger businesses spending millions on particular types of training and ways of doing business that they wouldn’t have given time of day to less than ten years ago? The answer is that if you do the same thing over and over again, you’ll get the same results over and over again. If you make a million every month, whatever you’re doing, make sure you keep doing it! But if you’re not earning your desired potential, doing the same thing week after week is not going to improve things. That’s one definition of insanity, to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
That brings us back to our definition of creativity from Edward De Bono (who coined the phrase ‘lateral thinking’). He said that creativity was ‘doing something in a better way’ or ‘doing something better’. So if you’re not getting what you want, you need to be creative and improve what you do, or do something else.
There are three threatening and ominous words why being more creative is now essential in modern business. They all begin with the letter A: Abundance, Automation and Asia.
The ‘threat’ from Asia appears to be obvious. They can make stuff cheaper. But that is not where the real threat lies at all. There are millions of highly skilled graduates coming out of China, India and now South America that are all competing in a global market for our jobs. But it’s not call centre jobs that they’re going to take – it’s any job that doesn’t have to be done face to face. That means almost any business service. That means any technological service. That means any skilled or knowledge based job. They are probably more motivated. They are probably better qualified and trained and yes, for now, they are happy to do it cheaper.
Automation used to mean that a car factory worker lost his job to a robot. ‘Well that’s all right’, you say, ‘no robot can replace me’. Well think again. Computer systems are now so complex that within 5 to 10 years a large proportion of knowledge-based workers will be replaced with automated artificial-intelligence computer systems. This means jobs that we once thought were fairly secure: accountants, lawyers, doctors. In the same way that few people now go to a bespoke tailor, in the future few people will go to a bespoke lawyer. The computer system will be cheaper and quicker.
Abundance is the fact that there is so much stuff everywhere. America spends more money on bin bags than half the world spends on everything. That’s one nation spending more on the receptacle for the things they don’t want than 90 countries spend in total.
There is so much choice, there are so may options, so many suppliers, so many variations. There are hundreds if not thousands of people or businesses that do exactly what you do. There used to be a time when a prospective author, actor or musician could send their material off to a production company and it would be read. Not so now. Publishing houses call the mountain of letters that come through their doors every day ‘the slush pile’. Record companies have a much stronger description. It would require a full time dedicated team just to wade through that stuff.
So it doesn’t get done and the genius of tomorrow goes undiscovered. Getting your product noticed on the high street is a similar challenge. If you want to buy a shirt, how can you decide from the thousands available? Price is not a motivator. Think back to when you last bought a pen, a car, a suit, dinner, a drink or a hotel. Did you choose the cheapest? Of course not. So how did you decide? This is why we have seen the rise in the esoteric black art of branding in the last two decades. Branding gets the product ahead. Branding is a creative process – it is holistic, irrational and emotional and completely out of the comfort zones of most logical, rational, linear businesses.
Not long ago, about fifteen years or so, we were told that we were leaving the ‘Industrial Age’ and we were entering the ‘Information Age’. Well the Information Age didn’t last long. In fact it’s all over. We now all have access to the same information. They used to say ‘Information is power’ well it isn’t. Information is potential power. Taking action based on that information is power. We are now in the ‘Conceptual Age’.
The future belongs not to those who know things but to those who do different things, differently. Those who do better things in a better way. Learn to be creative and get ahead. The is the age where creativity is going to be prized higher than all other attributes. This is the Age of Ideas.